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Raymond '08 lets game do the talking

NFL prospect reserved, but not on the field

Phil Estes' first thought was, "How am I ever going to get this guy to say something?"

It was 2003, and the Brown head football coach was in Miami to recruit a wide receiver. But when Estes sat down with Paul Raymond '08, the then-high school senior just stared at the coach.

"Some people, you can get a conversation started and they can just take it away," Estes said. "Paul was one of those guys who was just very, very quiet and reserved and listened to what you said."

Today, Paul Raymond the college senior shows flashes of Paul Raymond the high school senior. Still polite, he appears to have opened up considerably, though he still nervously fiddled with his Blackberry while answering questions in a recent interview.

One thing has clearly changed: the scope of Raymond's dreams. In high school, he was the undersized, 5-foot-9 prospect passed up by Division I-A programs. But now, he is on the brink of entering the National Football League, as the Ivy Leaguer with perhaps the best shot of being picked in the NFL Draft this weekend.

Raymond is hoping his impressive senior year (55 catches and 978 receiving yards) and quick 40-yard dash time (about 4.4 seconds) will help him in the draft. But he's not a lock, acknowledging that pro teams might still look down on his size and football pedigree.

He anticipates being picked in the draft's sixth or seventh round or even not at all; expert predictions confirm his expectations. But even if Raymond must sign with a team as a free agent this summer, he will have completed a circuitous, unlikely route to the NFL.

Raymond grew up in Miami, where his mother works as a clerk and where, he said, every boy shares the NFL dream. He spent most of high school playing as a small but speedy high school receiver.

The recruiting offers did come, but he said there was only limited interest from Florida International University and the University of South Florida. He got a serious look from Fordham University, which also had a Division I-AA program, but he ultimately chose Brown.

"If the NFL didn't work out, then I'd still have an Ivy League degree," he recalled thinking. He knew it would be hard to jump from Brown to the NFL, but he was encouraged that Brown receivers before him - Sean Morey '99 and Chas Gessner '03 - had done so.

Raymond had a decent freshman year, making 16 catches for 178 yards. But he had a sophomore slump and his name did not appear on the team's final statistics sheet in 2005.

So after football season, Raymond decided to join the track and field team as a sprinter. "I just wanted something competitive to do, to prove that I was a winner," he said.

The decision ended up boosting Raymond's confidence, as he eventually won two Heptagonal Championships in the 60-yard dash. It may have helped his NFL stock, he said, as he got faster.

The coaches noticed. When Estes clocked Raymond running the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds before his junior year, the coach made Raymond run again because he didn't believe the time.

"It was incredible, the speed that he had," Estes said. At the same time, quarterback Michael Dougherty '09 said Raymond had become more consistent at catching and better at running routes.

Raymond came back his junior year to make 45 catches for 654 yards before having his strong senior year, for which he was rewarded with Second Team All-Ivy honors and a trip to the Hula Bowl. After the Bears' disappointing 5-5 season, he spent part of this semester in Florida, preparing for NFL scouts by working out with a gym that preps pro football prospects.

Raymond said he's not sure what he'll do if the NFL doesn't pan out. A business economics concentrator, he is considering teaching math and coaching football at a high school. But Estes is confident that his former player will find a spot on a professional roster. Teams will be impressed by Raymond's speed, durability and work ethic, the coach said.

And, as a plus, teams might find Raymond's reserved nature a pleasant respite from the wide-receivers-as-prima-donnas stereotype perpetuated by players such as Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson.

"His number one priority has been winning and he hasn't been selfish about it in any way," Dougherty said. "People respect him."

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